Ben Simmons’ lack of aggressiveness has been an issue for the Brooklyn Nets through the first week of the NBA season.

Through three games, Simmons has taken 13 shots and been to the free-throw line three times. The Nets hope this will not be a long-term problem as the three-time All-Star is Brooklyn’s third highest-paid player and an integral part of their new-look offense. Head coach Steve Nash emphasized Simmons’ importance on both ends of the floor before the point guard’s Nets debut.

“I think the vision is for him to be the engine of this team on both sides of the ball,” Nash said.

That vision has yet to come to fruition with Simmons re-acclimating to NBA play following a 16-month layoff and offseason back surgery. The 26-year-old has shown flashes of his old self, attacking the paint on drives early in the Nets’ last two games. One of these drives came midway through the second quarter of Brooklyn’s 134-124 loss in Memphis Monday.

Simmons drove into the 6’11”, 265-pound Steven Adams, drawing a foul. This was the hardest contact the former number one pick has initiated in a Nets uniform. The concerning aspect for Brooklyn was that Simmons came up grabbing his back after the play.

Simmons would remain in the game but disappeared down the stretch, attempting just two shots in the second half, one of which was a desperation three to end the third quarter. In Brooklyn’s season-opening blowout loss to the New Orleans Pelicans, the Aussie took just three shots, two of which were lobs off broken plays. When asked about his offensive passivity in his debut, Simmons said his re-acclimation following back surgery is a process.

“It takes time,” Simmons said. “Having back surgery and being away from the game for a year, there’s little things that your mind might tell you to go do something but your body’s not wanting to go do that. But those are the habits, that’s something that I just need to continue to focus on and be aggressive regardless of the result.”

This answer, along with his response to hard contact from Adams Monday, begs the question: How much of Simmons’ lack of aggressiveness is the result of lingering effects from his back surgery?

The former All-NBA selectee has a history of back issues. Simmons detailed the severity of a back injury he sustained against the Bucks during the 2020-21 season on The Old Man and the Three podcast with J.J. Redick.